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USA faced New Zealand in the bronze medal match in Las Vegas in a thriller that ended with the Eagles winning on the final play of the match. The wind introduced an element of chance and chaos to the match, but in the end it was a simple pass to Andrew Durutalo that sealed the bronze medal for the Americans, 19-15.
USA has now won five of the last nine matches against New Zealand.
The wind continued to make a mess of restarts on Sunday, and from the opening kick the ball eventually went to touch giving USA a lineout which they took quickly. A few phases later, Folau Niua took a penalty quickly and Maka Unufe carried into the New Zealand 22. Shortly thereafter, Unufe stepped and spun his way into the try zone after claiming the ball from a ruck. Stephen Tomasin’s conversion was good to make it 7-0.
In the next passage of play, both sides struggle to seize control of the match. Dylan Collier was yellow-carded for making a tackle from an offside position. However, the USA was not able to exploit the advantage. From a penalty, New Zealand was able to string together several passes that ended with a try for DJ Forbes. The try was in the corner, though, making the conversion all-but impossible in the wind.
At half time, the USA led 7-5.
USA managed to gain possession from the second half’s opening kick, but an errant pass soon saw New Zealand with the ball in USA’s half again. Tim Mikkleson sized up the defensive line and beat Ben Pinkleman to score New Zealand’s second try. The conversion looked like it was headed over, and then the wind carried it back so that it never crossed over the crossbar. 10-7, New Zealand.
Martin Iosefo, recently into the match, made a half break and then an offload to Danny Barrett. Barrett then scored a try under the waving sticks after a penalty called against New Zealand allowed the Eagles to reset. Tomasin again converted to put USA back in front 14-10.
The lead was short-lived. A dummy-filled juking run by Sione Molia carried him past the defensive line and into the corner of the try zone. That try put New Zealand up by one point, 15-14. But USA had enough time to respond.
After the hooter, Barrett made a clean break, but was tackled 10 meters out from the try line. USA was awarded a penalty for one last chance. Andrew Durutalo was the carrier who ended up with the ball and space in front of him. He went through the gap and scored the match-winning try.
The final score was 19-15. This is the best result for the USA this season and gives them 17 World Series points.